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Talking strategy: facing up to the challenges of environmental sustainability in fashion

Public interest in sustainability issues has never been higher, and yet consumer demand for newness in fashion continues to fuel a cycle in which companies respond by offering greater numbers of styles with increasing frequency. The result is overconsumption, leading to wastage and the disposal of unwanted items in landfill. Companies must be persuaded to take urgent action and respond positively to the challenge of environmental sustainability, and consumers must be encouraged to make more sustainable choices. But to achieve this, businesses must be able to make money from sustainable fashion, and consumers' desire for newness needs to be fulfilled. In this report Robin Anson analyses a number of complex issues which the industry faces in tackling the sustainability challenge. In particular, he discusses consumer behaviour, the environmental impact of cotton cultivation, the need to divert clothing from landfill, the pros and cons of making clothes last longer, ways of tackling the "buy now, wear once, and throw away culture", and the importance of recycling and using recycled materials. Also, the report includes a review of the positive actions which some companies, retailers and other organisations are taking to address the sustainability challenge, including the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Coats, GreenEarth Cleaning, H&M Foundation, the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), Marks & Spencer (M&S), Missguided and The Recyclatex Group.

Public interest in sustainability issues has never been higher, and yet consumer demand for newness in fashion continues to fuel a cycle in which companies respond by offering greater numbers of styles with increasing frequency. The result is overconsumption, leading to wastage and the disposal of unwanted items in landfill. Companies must be persuaded to take urgent action and respond positively to the challenge of environmental sustainability, and consumers must be encouraged to make more sustainable choices. But to achieve this, businesses must be able to make money from sustainable fashion, and consumers' desire for newness needs to be fulfilled. In this report Robin Anson analyses a number of complex issues which the industry faces in tackling the sustainability challenge. In particular, he discusses consumer behaviour, the environmental impact of cotton cultivation, the need to divert clothing from landfill, the pros and cons of making clothes last longer, ways of tackling the "buy now, wear once, and throw away culture", and the importance of recycling and using recycled materials. Also, the report includes a review of the positive actions which some companies, retailers and other organisations are taking to address the sustainability challenge, including the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Coats, GreenEarth Cleaning, H&M Foundation, the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), Marks & Spencer (M&S), Missguided and The Recyclatex Group.


SETTING THE SCENE
RESPONDING POSITIVELY TO THE SUSTAINABILITY
CHALLENGE
MEASURING AND COMMUNICATING SUSTAINABLE
MANUFACTURING ACHIEVEMENTS
SUSTAINABLE COTTON
FASHION AND LANDFILL
MAKING CLOTHES LAST LONGER
TACKLING THE “BUY NOW, WEAR ONCE, AND THROW AWAY CULTURE”
RECYCLING AND USING RECYCLED MATERIALS
MAKING THE BUSINESS CASE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL
SUSTAINABILITY
CONCLUSION

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